Tag Archives: W_Circuit

Sam’s W Trek in Torres del Paine

Sam returned in March from a W Trek in Torres del Paine. Here he tells us about his experiences on the trip and in booking through Swoop and our partners…

‘I had a wonderful time – helped by the fact that we had some exceptional weather and a good group of trekking companions’

How were Swoop Patagonia?

I found the Swoop team to be very quick to respond to all my queries (especially given the short notice prior to trip departure). Please note that this was greatly appreciated.

How were our partners who run the W Trek?

They also performed well – I found the 5 day W Trek to be relatively easy over the 5-days and to finish off with the boat cruise up to Grey Glacier was a real highlight. Our guide Miriam was excellent, offering just the right amount of info at each location, and was always very conscious of how the group was travelling.

Is there anything you would have done differently in hindsight?

I enjoyed the luxury of having a hot-shower and shelter at the end of each days trekking, but didn’t feel that the additional cost over camping was entirely justified, particularly as we found  that some of the food did not meet our expectations.

Lis’s Trip to Torres del Paine & Tierra del Fuego

Lis returned in December from a trip to Patagonia during which they took W Trek in Torres del Paine followed by a visit to Isla Navarino in Tierra del Fuego. Here she tells us about her experiences on her trip and in booking with Swoop and our partners in Patagonia…

What three words would best sum up your experience in Patagonia?

Wild, Beautiful, Fantastic.

What was the highlight of your trip to Patagonia overall?

It’s genuinely hard to pick one thing overall, it was so varied and beautiful. The light and the windswept, dramatic wilderness of it all was perhaps the most abiding memory of Patagonia – the sheer space and also the diversity.

We dipped in and out of different parts of Patagonia, including a 3 day W Trek (thanks Swoop Patagonia for organising it for us!) in the stunning Torres del Paine National Park, and spending time in Punta Arenas which really felt like a frontier town at the edge of the earth.

Then we also flew in a tiny plane down to Isla Navarino, where there really is the last town before Antarctica (and the most southerly Yacht Club in the world!). This was definitely the most unusual aspect of our trip, and included our best story: drinking with the locals on the German frigate (now a bar) at the Yacht Club, with a Penguin swimming in the bay – and especially the luxurious Lakutaia Lodge and services of local guide Denis (quite brilliant).

Do you have any tips for other people who are planning a trip?

Patagonia is pretty huge – we would have liked to see more of it; then again, with some smart planning of flights and buses (which are excellent for long distance travel in Chile) we could get around in not too many days. There are so many options for hiking and National Parks – definitely pick your top ones and don’t try to do everything.

We’d also have liked to cross the border into Argentinian Patagonia (a well trodden path at different points) and to take a boat ride (whether the Navimag or a more luxury cruise ) – would recommend investigating these options.

How well did Swoop Patagonia do helping you plan your holiday, and finding the best trip and operators for you?

They were great: very generous with their advice and support when we were considering  options before making a decision. It was a very personal, tailored service; and thus felt very responsive and flexible to our needs.

What did you think of the operators we set you up with in Torres del Paine?

The operators were reliable, helpful and professional. The Fast Track W Trek we did in Torres del Paine was quite expensive (as there were only two of us in the group); but in return we received a great service, excellent guide (just for the two of us), top equipment and planning and good food. It suited what we needed very well.

How was the W Trek itself, and how were your guides?

The trek was fantastic: we did a 3-day Fast Track loop which suited perfectly as we only had 3 days to spare. I would recommend this itinerary – others do a 5 day W Trek or the Full Circuit, but the 3 days were honestly pretty stretching, even for us as pretty seasoned walkers. The variation on each day was marvellous too, meaning we felt like we saw the range that Torres del Paine had to offer; we left very satisfied.

Talking with other walkers, it’s worth choosing your refugio carefully – some had a reputation as serving pretty meagre portions of food which isn’t great when you’ve walked 9 hours!

Our guide (Viktor) was fantastic – seasoned, professional, good fun, knowledgeable, everything we could have wanted. The packed lunches, tent and equipment which he bought from them were very good quality, and they provided excellent fresh bread for my partner who is gluten free. He went above and beyond to support us and make sure things ran smoothly. Would definitely recommend the operator and Viktor in particular.

How was your stay at Lakutaia Lodge?

Lakutaia Lodge was great too – again, there were only about 6 guests staying there so we had 1:1 attention and service – for instance, they changed the menus around so we could have King Crab on our last day when we had to leave early.

Their excursions were thoughtful and really interesting (bird watching – not something I’d ever think I’d have enjoyed but was breathtaking), tour of the town of Puerto Williams, short trek, museum…); and we also loved using their bikes and canoes.

Local guide Denis accompanied us solicitously during our stay and was so knowledgeable and accommodating – it really made the trip.

The Lodge manager was equally very hospitable and accommodating, looked after us very well. She even introduced us to a famous Chilean opera singer who arrived to stay as we were leaving!

Was there anything that you wish had happened differently/or not happened?

Only the weather coming in on our third day, and my falling over & spraining my ankle! Otherwise perfect.

Sam’s W Trek in Torres del Paine

Sam returned in January from a W Trek in Torres del Paine. Here she tells us about her experiences on her trip and in booking with Swoop and our partners…

What was the highlight of your trip?

The geography I witnessed on my 5 day W Trek in Torres del Paine was absolutely stunning. Trekking through the rolling hills and craggy mountains for hours a day was an incredible experience. I never tired because I was constantly struck and energised by the beauty of its nature.

Did you manage to visit anywhere else in Chile or Argentina?

Yes – Santiago, Vina del Mar and Valparaiso.

How well did Swoop Patagonia do helping you plan your holiday, and finding the best trip or operator for you?

You guys were great! Thank you for everything!

How were our partners who ran the trek, and how were their guides on the trip?

They were great. Carlos was an excellent, informed and thoughtful guide. He made the experience unforgettable.

Was there anything that you wish had happened differently/or not happened at all?

Nope!

Do you have any tips for other people who are planning a trip?

It’s no joke when they say you could experience four seasons in one day – pack layers!

Also, I stayed an extra couple nights to see penguins and Punta Arenas is a bit of a sleepy town. Could have done just one there.

Nada’s W Trek in Torres del Paine

Nada returned in February from a W Trek in Torres del Paine. Here she tells us about her experiences on her trip and in booking with Swoop…

How were Swoop Patagonia?

Swoop were very quick to reply to emails and provided very helpful information!

Did you enjoy your 5 day W Trek itinerary?

On the first day of our 5 day W Trek I would have preferred if we walked a little more than two hours, for example it might have been nice to walk into the park (rather than travelling in by bus), or to start very early in the morning on one of the days so that we could have seen the sunset/ escape the crowds. I understand  however that such alterations would probably depend on the preferences of the other people in the group as well.

How were your guides on the trip?

Victor was a chilled & a nice guy. He was able to provide very good information about Flora & Fauna, you could tell he knows the area well. There were a few moments where I got the feeling he has been doing it for a very long time and is a little bit fed up with it…

Did you manage to visit anywhere else in Chile or Argentina?

Yes, I had another two weeks to travel in Chile.

Do you have any tips for other people planning a trip?

You need to book bus ticket in advance – luckily Swoop and their partners in Torres del Paine told me that and booked everything for me! That was a great service!

Charles’s ‘W Trek’ experience in Torres del Paine

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Charles just came back from a W Trek trip in Torres del Paine with Chile Nativo.
Here he talks to us about what the trek was like and the perks of staying in a refugio.

How well did Swoop Patagonia do helping you plan your holiday, and finding the best trip or operator for you?

I had a stellar time in Patagonia with your group.  It was particularly freeing to not have to book each refugio nor worry about meal reservations, etc.

How was Chile Nativo, and how were their guides on the trip?

Going with the tour group was a great way to see the W circuit, well worth the extra expense. Carlos was an excellent guide, and it was a great adventure. I’d strongly recommend to anyone. It was especially nice not to have to haul tent, sleeping bag, cooking gear, etc, but I still had a sense of being in the outdoors. 

Was there anything that you wish had happened differently/or not happened at all?

One suggestion would be to survey those planning on going on a trip and attempt to group together those of similar skill levels and risk thresholds, etc. (if at all possible, perhaps during the highest season when there are many folks going on trips). I say this because there can be a bit of disconnect between some in a group who want to push a little harder and others who prefer more relaxed style…anyway somehow that consideration should be worked into the way folks are grouped together (but I realize the main driver is WHEN folks are departing, etc.)

Laurie & Rob’s W Trek from an eco camp

Laurie & rob returned in March from a W Trek based from an eco camp in Torres del Paine. Here they tell us about their trip and their experiences in booking with Swoop and our partners…

How did Swoop Patagonia do in helping you plan and arrange your trip?

Swoop were great at coordinating with their partners who ran the trek we wanted to do in Torres del Paine. Overall we appreciated all their input, and there is nothing we would have wanted to go differently.

How was your 7 day W Trek?

Overall the 7 day W Trek and stay at eco camp was awesome. We found the itinerary a little strict at times. For instance a little more down time would have enhanced the overall experience. So too would the ability to have dinner when we wished to. We do, though, appreciate that when running a large group a schedule is helpful in order to keep things running smoothly.

How were the staff at the eco camp, and their guides on the trek?

We were a group of 6 that travelled with another group of 6. Roberto and Niko were our guides. Both were great, however, we found Roberto offered more information to the group. Niko was quieter, his stated philosophy being that if you want to ask questions he is more than willing to answer.

What did you think of the eco camp and the accommodation there?

The camp was great. We stayed in both the Superior and Standard Domes. Certainly the Superior domes were more comfortable with the bathrooms, but the Standard domes were also great.

In terms of the Refugios: Refugio Los Cuernos was not great overall; very crowded; very ‘basic’ facility; nowhere to hang out other then your bunk when the dinner rotations start. We arrived around 3 pm, this is a long time with nowhere to hang out (it was raining outside).

A number of items should have been recommended in the ‘suggested things to bring’, such as flipflops for showering, Chilean dollars (note that when we picked up by Cascada, we were not given the opportunity to obtain Chilean currency).

Our group was split into two rooms, one had 9 bunks (all allotted to our group) and the other had 3 bunks allotted to our group. My husband and I were to be split up between the two rooms. I wasn’t very happy about that! When I mentioned this to our guide he said that there was nothing he could do. A group of 3 women were travelling together and one of the women offered to go into the other room. Nonetheless it was a loud (snoring and no insulation in the walls of the very small and crowded rooms) and uncomfortable night. Our experience in the other lodge (Lodge Paine Grande) was much better.

Is there anything you would have changed about the trip?

Perhaps arriving later in the day, at the Refugio Los Cuerros might be an option, making sure all partners are in the same room, having a detailed ‘suggested things to bring’ for both EcoCamp and in particular for the trek, or perhaps camping instead of staying at the Refugio.

We would also have appreciated learning ahead of time that Refugio Los Cuerros has private ‘cottages’ available (none available by the time we arrived) so that we could perhaps have obtained one! Or continue on to Camp Italiano, and camp. Camping could be an option for those who wish it, and of course this option might be a little more expensive.

What was the highlight of your trip overall?

The beauty of the landscape. It felt surreal at times.

Do you have any tips for other people planning a trip?

Pack light. Get Chilean pesos before heading out to the Camp.

Did you manage to visit anywhere else in Chile or Argentina?

Buenos Aires, El Calafate, El Chalten, and Bariloche (Villa La Angostura); all were fantastic!!

Catherine’s W Trek in Torres del Paine

Catherine returned in March from a 10 week trip to Chile and Argentina, during which she spent 5 days on a Trek in Torres del Paine National Park. Here she tells us about her experiences on her trip…

 What was the highlight of your trip?

It was a great experience and we were lucky enough to have great weather…One of the highlights of my whole trip was the W Trek in Torres del Paine that you helped me arrange.

How were Swoop’s partners in Torres del Paine?

Your partners in Torres del Paine were very accommodating and easy to work with. Besides the W Trek, they arranged for bus tickets and a stay at the lovely Amerindia Hostel.

How were your guides on the W Trek?

Our guide Armando was so knowledgeable about the area including the geology, the history, and the flora and fauna.  He also had an amazing ability to spot wildlife.

How did Swoop Patagonia do in helping you plan and arrange your trip?

I really appreciate that you let me know that I could easily do the hiking out of Calafate to Parque Nacional Las Glaciares on my own.  This helped me keep the trip expenses down and I did a lovely three day backpack there on my own — my first solo backpack! Thank you so much.

Marilyn’s W Trek from a Torres del Paine eco-camp

Marilyn recently returned from a 7 day W Trek in Torres del Paine based from an eco camp in the National Park. Here she tells us about experiences on the trip…

What did you think of the service provided by our partners in Torres del Paine?

They had a good website containing comprehensive information & an efficient payment system.

How was the W Trek itinerary and how were the guides who accompanied you?

The itinerary and guides on the trip were excellent. Porters are provided for you on days 2, 3, & 4 so you don’t have to carry anything except your daypack on any day of the trek. You are provided with a small but adequate dry bag with a weight limit of 4kg for days 2, 3, & 4, and this is more than adequate.

What were your thoughts on the eco camp?

The camp is in an excellent position, with very unobtrusive architecture and wonderful views of the towers, which are particularly impressive at sunrise. Another benefit is that it is above, & well removed from, the zoo of traffic on the road to the park trailhead & Hotel Torres.

How did you find your accommodation?

The basic domes at the eco camp are comfortable, but very hot in the sun & not able to retain heat well when it’s not sunny…and you need to be a hobbit to get in & out of the doors comfortably!

The bedding is cumbersome & heavy (this seems to be a Chilean thing), so I’d say you’re better off in a sleeping bag.

They need to treat the doors of both domes & toilet blocks with a good dose of WD40 – they were really loud & squeaky & therefore disturbing especially during the night.

The showers were good, but there were only 2 washbasins & no laundry basins which seems to be a bit of an oversight

Eco-toilets are an admirable idea, but it is difficult to flush all matter away with a foot pump.

On the nights where we stayed at refugios elsewhere, the sleeping bags were decent, and cotton sleep sheets were available if needed. Refugio Los Cuernos is a bit of a bun fight unless you are put in a cabin. There was blocked plumbing, no soap or loo paper, 3 toilets between over 100 women, and noisy corridors with banging doors.

Did you enjoy the food?

The food at the eco camp and Refugio Paine Grande was great, but the food at Refugio Los Cuernos was awful. The dining and lounge domes at the eco camp were great, and beautifully furnished.

Food at the eco camp is plentiful & very good. You do not need to bring much in the way of additional snacks for any day where lunch is provided by the eco camp (days 1,2, 5,6,7), and you get to make & choose your own lunch items – as much as you like.

How was your trip overall?

Overall a splendid trip but lacking cultural interest cf Himalaya. Stunning scenery – I really lucked in with very good weather.

Do you have any tips for future visitors?

Don’t take too much snack food – Ecocamp is not a weight watchers venue.

In peak season the number of trekkers is out of control for the facilities available- there seems to be no regulation on the number of people camping in every square inch of the campsite areas with little or no hygiene/facilities = defaecating in bush, contamination of water sources.

Watch your knees- I was warned about this by a work colleague who had done the W trek. The pace is fast as not at altitude & 2 of days are long with much of it steep uphill & downhill. In hindsight, I would have been better to go slower & use a trekking pole

What was the highlight of your trip?

Highlights were Mirador Britanico, Glacier Gray, Torres Del Paine, views driving from Lago Gray back to the eco camp via Lago Pahoe in glorious weather.

Did you manage to visit anywhere else in South America on your trip?

I also went to Easter Island – a fascinating but bizarre place.

Incidentally, many thanks for my pre-departure present. It was so hot though that the best use for it would have been to mop up sweat.

Roy’s Self Guided W Trek in Torres del Paine

Roy returned in February from a Self Guided W Trek in Torres del Paine. Here he tells us about his experiences on his trip, and in booking through Swoop and our partners…

First of all everything went well and the whole trip was beyond expectations… and I have been lucky enough to have travelled a bit.

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How did Swoop and our partners do in helping you plan and arrange your trip?

The next day when I arrived at your partners’ offices in Puerto Natales, they had all the paper work done, I received my vouchers, and they then explained the itinerary to me very clearly using a map. After that I was on my own, which is what I wanted.

I left my big bag at the hostel and only took with me to Torres what I would require over the next few days, again from when I arrived in the National park until I left everything went so easy, no complications whatsoever.

The process of going through Swoop Patagonia and their partner in Puerto Natales was effortless and if I ever had any queries they were dealt with swiftly.roy scobie 3

What was the highlight of your trip?

The highlight of the trip was the unique scenery and taking it all in, I was lucky to have met people from various countries and every one of them now I would call friends.

Did you manage to visit anywhere else in Chile or Argentina on your trip?

I went up to San Pedro de Atacama for a week and in hindsight I should not have bothered, it was good and I got a lot out of it, but apart from a couple of places if you want to go anywhere then you had to go by bus or four wheel drive and everywhere you went there were hundreds of people, you never had much control and sometimes like one of those tourist packages not my thing.

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Do you have any tips for other people who are planning a trip?

If I was to give anyone any advice I would say do the longer tour around Torres, go West to East I went East to West, if you go West to East you see the views and give yourself a couple of days more in case you have bad weather then you can go back and see what you have missed at your leisure.

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Melanie’s 5 day W Trek in Torres del Paine

Melanie returned in January from a 5 day W Trek in Torres del Paine. Here she tells us about her trip and her experience in booking with Swoop and our partners… 

‘The trip was amazing! I had a great time.’ 

 What was the highlight of your trip?

The highlight of my W Trek was seeing Las Torres. The weather was not very cooperative that day (rainy, cloudy) but our guide knew exactly what to do to maximize our chances of seeing Las Torres: we waited inside until a perfect window of opportunity presented itself, and we got a beautiful view of Las Torres. It was an exhilarating experience.

How well did Swoop Patagonia do helping you plan your holiday, and finding the best trip or operator for you?

They were wonderful. Responded very quickly to my emails and very helpful in organizing the trip I wanted.

How was the operator we put you in touch with, and how were their guides on the trip?

They were great. Very organized, approachable and helpful. My guide was very knowledgeable, friendly, flexible, and always had our safety and enjoyment in mind.  

‘Overall, I had a fantastic experience. Thank you to both of you for all of your help and I wish you the very best!’